ACS rolls out air-conditioned buses

Alabaster School Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers, left, and School Board member Derek Henderson, center, tour one of the school system's new air conditioned buses. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

Alabaster School Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers, left, and School Board member Derek Henderson, center, tour one of the school system’s new air conditioned buses. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Some Alabaster students and athletes will have a cooler way to travel during the upcoming school year, as the city’s school system has begun the process of replacing its school bus fleet with air-conditioned buses.

Alabaster City Schools recently received its first five air-conditioned Thomas Built school buses, and is putting them into service immediately. In addition to air conditioning, the buses also include storage areas on the bottom of the bus, a heated driver’s seat with armrests and a four-camera security system with microphones for driver and student safety.

“We’ve only got five right now, but this is what we will buy from now on,” Alabaster School Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers said after a special-called Aug. 1 Board of Education meeting. “This will be our new standard from here on out.”

After the meeting, School Board members viewed one of the new buses outside of Alabaster City Hall before taking a short ride to Thompson High School and back.

Over the next several years, the school system is planning to replace its entire 75-bus fleet with air-conditioned buses, Vickers said.

The cargo space below the buses will allow the schools’ athletic teams to more easily transport equipment on away games, and the buses also include a small, lockable overhead storage compartment for the bus driver to use.

ACS Transportation Supervisor Jeff Nichols said the buses also have disc brakes, which will last longer than traditional drum brakes and will shorten stopping distances for the buses.

“If it was an option that made it safer for the kids, we got it,” ACS Operations Coordinator Dr. Jeff Atkins said as he drove the School Board members.

“The cost between these and traditional buses is pretty negligible,” Vickers said.